Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Amazon support for Indic language e-books - What is the fuss?

Discussions on Amazon's support to  Indic languages' ebooks   requires some clarity from my side. The points discussed mainly are  Hardware compatibility , Policy Decisions and Market Potential  ( perceived).  Please  see below each point and my conversation with Amazon for better clarity.
Hardware issues:
When I published the book the title was 7.83 ஹெர்ட்ஸ் ; sub title 7.83Hz and description was totally in Tamil.  Then around 18th March, the communication started.
Please read the following conversation with Amazon.
The first mail from their customer service said,
You've submitted your book in a language that isn't yet supported and we have had to block it from sale" 
For this , I had responded  on 20th March
It is Tamil language and I  have thoroughly tested the book in Kindle instruments, Kindle app for mac and kindle app for PC. It renders well and only after confirmation and gaining confidence it is put up for sale. People who downloaded it could read without problem.".   I have friends who have read in Kindle  old version instruments to prove this. Please check Venkatasubramanian Ramamurthy's post. https://www.facebook.com/mannairvs/posts/10152072814737545?stream_ref=10
I changed the title to 7.83 Hertz and the description in English. If this had been the reason, it should have fixed it . But I got a reply that said,
" I checked your book and noticed that you wrote the book description in English, selected the book's language as English and the title was also in English. This is the reason why it passed the review process when you firstly published it on our website"
I replied with an explanation
" I had given the title in Tamil 7.83 ஹெர்ட்ஸ் and the sub title as 7.83 Hz for easy search. The description was totally in Tamil. The language selection was not allowing Tamil and hence I choose English. It was not to mis lead any buyer. Whoever bought the book are aware that this is in Tamil."
I got a reply for this yesterday as,
" Although you're able to view the content in Tamil language in your Kindle or Kindle application, it is not applicable to all the Kindle or Kindle applications."
I have mentioned this in my blog.. Do they mean to say, they would make "all the older instruments/ apps " compatible with Tamil, once they approve this language? Is there a backwards compatibility? I have not heard of this  happening. The statement " all the Kindle, All the Kindle applications" is not a justification. Even if they do, it is going to be " Not applicable to All the Kindle or Kindle application". So what is the fuss?

Please note, they have not said it was hardware/ software issue. They simply do not support. No explanation given. It is all our assumptions that Kindle old / Kindle new do not support and that is why Amazon is reluctant.

Policy issue;
They consistently maintained ,
"our Kindle Content Quality team ran a review on this book and found it was published in a non-supported language, so they decided to remove it from our website until it is published in the language you selected." and
" If the language in the content of the book doesn't match the language advertised on our website, this is misleading to our customers which may result in a bad reading experience.
We will be able to reactivate the sales of your book until it is published in English or another supported language."
Where is the question of misleading the clients? I have checked , convinced my self in Kindle reader, Kindle for Ipad, Kindle for PC ( what else do they have? ). If it is their policy   not to allow un-supported language, how do  they have other Tamil e books on their site?
Indirectly, they force you to publish in a language they support. They are even willing to advise and guide you to a list of translators , albeit with a caveat that they do not endorse any one of them.
For this I wrote,
"My book will be in Tamil and am not translating because KDP is not supporting it. When I am ready for English, I may consider KDP too for publishing."  and
"Thanks for the suggestion for translation services. I would rather go for sites that are sensitive and support my language.  I encourage my friends to look for options that are more friendly to local community sensitivities. We may lose out in being in the market leader's site, but atleast we would not be treated differently"
A policy of a seller  cannot force me to publish in a language of his preference. Sorry.
Conflict in amazon's  statement:
Quoting from above  "   " .  If this is true, how some Tamil e - books got into their site with the meta data " Language - Tamil" ?
 On the same mail, they mention " If you find any books published in a language we do not support, feel free to pop us a mail with the ASIN, so that we'll investigate.".
If they are clear about the policy, how come they do not know Tamil e books are there in their site ?
Do they have different standards for PDF versions and .mobi versions? It is not clear from  their site.  Amazon has an impeccable record of making things very clear to the  users. It is not an oversight or a technical glitch.
From the above statements, it looks like it is their policy not to support except a few languages.  So,  it is their business decision not to support Indic language as of now.
Market potential hypothesis
Lower market opportunity  of Indic language e-book is cited as the reason for not supporting these languages by a few of us. Amazon has never said this overtly or intrinsically. It does not seem to be the reason as
1. They support languages ( like Basque, Nordic scripts) that are not very vibrant like English, French, German, Spanish or Portuguese. The convenience of having Latin based scripts could be a reason for de-facto support. But it is not out of business perspective.
Compared to that Malay, Chinese ( Mandarin and Cantonese) would be  a huge opportunity. If complex scripts like Indic languages are an issue, the older Kindle would not support the old Tamil script ( who gave that script to them? !). The Paperwhite supports modern Tamil script and so is Kindle Fire.
2. India is a huge mobile consumer market . Reading habit is less compared to Western countries, but , it could be a good market to Kindle Singles as well. Who said , books are to be voluminous to read? Indic language support was made available in Nokia after much criticism. Samsung was smart to catch on. It does not make sense for Amazon to remain Latin obsessed in this country.
3. Kindle is not aggressively sold here unlike in US. I had explained  in my reply to Anton Prakash. Basic kindle is USD 69 in USA and the same is available for Rs 5999 in India ( almost 99 USD?). It is not aggressive pricing strategy.
They sold till yesterday, their old generation Paperwhite for Rs 7999 while the new generation is available at the same price in US. It was just a dumping act. Not an intelligent market tactic. They got more brickbats on their comments and review. Now, you would see only their NEW paperwhite for sale! Some damage control act ( or they simply exhausted the old stock).
By looking at their pricing, positioning or support strategy , it is clear that they are NOT interested in a market that is in nascent stage. May be they are not Farmers type - to sow, water, grow the crop ; but, Hunter types - attack and devour by force when the meal is available.

My observation : Tamil as a language is NOT supported officially ( any Indic language) as of now in Amazon.  It is their policy as of now.  If there are Tamil books in their site, they are,  by  let ups which they want to fix. 
It is a business decision taken at the high levels. It is not a hardware issue or a market potential analysis.
I do not bother if they do not support Zwahili for Indian user . Having  an office in India, and in Chennai, a policy of not supporting Tamil or any Indic language is an abberation in their policy. This needs to be corrected , now.

No comments :